skip to main content
Aug 15, 2002

Alabama seeks final judgment

Featuring: Robert T. Cunningham

News staff writers 
The Birmingham News 

A University of Alabama defense team leaves today for Chicago, where it will fight to overturn two bowl bans and six additional scholarship reductions given to its football program by the NCAA Committee on Infractions six months ago. 

An eight-person traveling party led by university counsel Stan Murphy and Mobile attorney Robert Cunningham Jr. will present the university's case at 8 a.m. Friday in front of the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee at The Westin hotel downtown. 

A decision won't be announced for several weeks. 

University of Wyoming Law School Dean Jerry Parkinson will represent the infractions committee, which announced Feb.1 that it considered shutting down the Crimson Tide program after a 11/2-year investigation uncovered numerous recruiting violations by UA boosters. 

The infractions committee placed Alabama on five years' probation, increased UA's self-imposed penalty of 15 scholarship reductions to 21 over three years, banned it from postseason in 2002 and 2003, disassociated three UA boosters for life and restricted all boosters from traveling on team charters, attending closed practices, assisting in summer camps and attaining sideline passes for games. 

The bowl bans especially stung the Tide program, considering it is expected to lose at least $4 million in revenue if they stand. 

The appeals committee was formerly chaired by newly hired Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive, but he recused himself from Alabama's appeals hearing. 

That leaves a four-person committee to hear Alabama's case. It will be chaired by newly hired Clemson Athletics Director Terry Don Phillips, formerly AD at Oklahoma State. It also includes University of Southern California Faculty Athletics Representative Noel Ragsdale, Harvard University attorney Allan Ryan and Robert Stein of the American Bar Association, who is the committee's mandated member from the "general public." 

It has the option of upholding the infractions committee's penalties or vacating any part of them. 

The last SEC school to go before the appeals committee saw mixed results, which is likely UA's best hope. In a 1999 men's basketball case against Louisiana State University, the committee upheld all scholarship reductions against the program but vacated a postseason ban. 

Alabama officials said they will not comment on the case until its conclusion, but Cunningham said, "Everyone interested in this appeal should understand that we face a very uphill battle." 

Murphy made it known in a letter to NCAA President Cedric Dempsey that Alabama plans to contest nearly every penalty beyond what the university self-imposed last fall. 

The point of the hearing is not to retry the case, which largely centered around alleged improper payments and benefits by boosters Logan Young, Wendell Smith and Ray Keller. In fact, the university agreed with many of the 15 allegations it faced when it went before the infractions committee on Nov.17. 

It will now argue that the penalties are excessive, using other decisions as examples. For instance, on June 26 the infractions committee gave the University of California one bowl ban and 13 scholarship reductions, even though repeat offender Cal was found to lack institutional control and committed academic fraud two charges absent from UA's case to go with numerous recruiting violations. 

Procedural issues: 

Those close to the case say there are critical procedural issues that UA will argue loudly that the infractions committee ignored: 

That the university shouldn't have been considered a repeat offender, and therefore penalized so harshly, since the 1998 infractions case against former Tide basketball assistant coach Tyrone Beamon was caught by the school and self-reported. 

That the NCAA enforcement staff's use of an unidentified "secret witness" in its case is against NCAA bylaws. 

That the NCAA's statute of limitations policy should have applied to the illegal recruitment of Stevenson lineman Kenny Smith in 1995, possibly the most detrimental allegation the Tide faced at Indianapolis. 

That the NCAA enforcement staff failed to supply information concerning the illegal recruitment of Smith and Memphis' Albert Means in 1999 in a timely fashion. 

Alabama's traveling party is much different from the one that went to Indianapolis to meet with the infractions committee. Faculty Athletics Representative Gene Marsh and former compliance director Marie Robbins will not make this trip. Both have been mostly uninvolved in the appeal process. 

Repeat members of the traveling party will be Murphy, Athletics Director Mal Moore, university counsel Glenn Powell, outside counsel Rich Hilliard of the Indianapolis firm Ice Miller and former university President Andrew Sorensen, who has since begun his presidency at the University of South Carolina. 

Interim university President Barry Mason will attend for the first time. But it's the other new defense members who symbolize the university's aggressive strategy for its appeal. Cunningham is a litigation attorney for the firm Cunningham, Bounds, Yance, Crowder and Brown, which successfully represented the state in a recent high-profile case against Exxon. 

Meanwhile, Alabama law school graduate Charles Cooper will help as well. Cooper belongs to the Washington, D.C., firm of Cooper & Kirk. 

The defense team will argue against most of the specific findings pertaining to Smith and Means, and it will also argue a charge against alleged booster Jim Johnson, a Columbus, Ga., car dealer who sold former Tide linebacker Travis Carroll a vehicle; and the handing out of four $100 bills by Keller to an unnamed Tide player in 1998 and 1999. 

Alabama will not argue several findings that Young provided an improper loan to former assistant coach Ronnie Cottrell, that Means received two expense-paid recruiting visits, that Young and Keller made improper, in-person contact with recruits, and that recruits received "excessive entertainment," including parties with strippers.

Lawyer Involved

Related Case

Pro Bono Defense of Crimson Tide against NCAA Sanctions

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Robert Cunningham led the firm's pro bono representation of the University of Alabama in its 2002 fight against the NCAA sanctioning of the Crimson...

Related News

Sep 30, 2002

Infractions appeal: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

The NCAA News  The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee has upheld all findings and penalties involving the football program at the...

Sep 19, 2002

UA legal appeal unlikely

Officials say it’s time to move on; school won’t file lawsuit  By Steve Reeves  TUSCALOOSA | Univ...

Sep 18, 2002

UA officials not off hook

Commentary by RAY MELICK  BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD  TUSCALOOSA — On the one hand, it doesn't make any sense. How do you penalize th...

Sep 18, 2002

Tide fans angered over outcome

By IAN GUERIN  BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD  Alabama fans will continue to be Crimson Tide supporters, regardless of what the NCAA Division ...

Sep 18, 2002

Tide gets no relief from NCAA

The Birmingham News  STEVE KIRK and STEVE IRVINE  News staff writers  TUSCALOOSA An exhaustive investigation into the University o...

Sep 18, 2002

Players: time to move on

By GREG WALLACE  BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD  TUSCALOOSA — Over. Finished. Done. No question, no doubt, nothing more to say.  Th...

Sep 18, 2002

Booster says he is victim in probe

By IAN GUERIN  BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD  Logan Young, the former University of Alabama booster accused by the NCAA of paying money to a h...

Sep 18, 2002

Arguments fell on deaf ears

GREG WALLACE  BIRMINGHAM POST-HERALD  TUSCALOOSA — At every turn, the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee had an answer.  Ea...

Sep 18, 2002

Alabama's reaction to NCAA appeal

The Crimson White (online)  By Alex Merritt  Assistant Sports Editor  September 18, 2002  The NCAA Committee on Infractions a...

Sep 18, 2002

Alabama exhausts appeals of penalty

By THOMAS MURPHY  Sports Reporter Mobile Register  TUSCALOOSA -- University of Alabama officials and the university's legal team fumed ...

Sep 17, 2002

University of Alabama responses to the appeal decision  Statements concerning today's NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee Ruling, from University of Alabama Interim President J....

Sep 17, 2002

Sanctions stand

By Cecil Hurt  TUSCALOOSA | The NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee on Tuesday pointedly rejected the University of ...

Sep 17, 2002

NCAA upholds sanctions against Alabama

from  Associated Press  TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The NCAA rejected Alabama's request that it ease sanctions against the football pr...

Sep 17, 2002

NCAA Division I infractions appeals committee upholds penalties against University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa  INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee upheld all findings and penalties involving the footbal...

Sep 17, 2002

Former University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, assistant football coach public infractions appeals committee report

NCAA news release  CONTACT:  Terry Don Phillips  NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee  INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA  This repo...

Sep 17, 2002

Appeals committee does not come to rescue

By Tom Farrey  As a vast, member-driven organization, the NCAA can be an impossible creature to fathom. Initiatives ebb and f...

Aug 25, 2002

UA didn't get equal protection under the law from the NCAA  Any discussion of the University of Alabama’s appeal of the sanctions handed down by the NCAA for football recruit...

Aug 23, 2002

UA attacks sanctions as unfair

Alabama appeal based on contention that heavy sanctions are unprecedented and inappropriate for the violations committed  By THOMAS MURPHY&n...

Aug 23, 2002

Wrangling with confidentiality and credibility

By Cecil Hurt  There has already been far too much “death penalty" rhetoric connected with the University of ...

Aug 17, 2002

Tide states its case

School will release information about NCAA appeal next week  By PAUL GATTIS  Huntsville Times Sports Staff  TUS...

Aug 17, 2002

Still uphill for UA

Mobile attorney Robert Cunningham feels Alabama's appeal of NCAA punishment went well but says school still faces 'difficult challenge' in getting...

Aug 16, 2002

UA to Appeal for Leniency

Alabama officials get long-awaited hearing before NCAA appeals panel today with goal of reducing sanctions  By THOMAS MURPHY  Sports Re...

Aug 16, 2002

Alabama lawyers say hearing went well

By Cecil Hurt  Sports Editor presented by the Tuscaloosa News  CHICAGO | Robert "Bobo" Cunningham, who served as l...

Aug 14, 2002

NCAA Hearing Won’t Provide Easy Answers  By Cecil Hurt  Preparations are complete. The long practice sessions and strategy meetings are done. A daunting task re...

Aug 04, 2002

Hope for Bama?

By THOMAS MURPHY  Sports Reporter  While the Mobile lawyer handling the University of Alabama's appeal has conceded it will be tough f...

Feb 19, 2002

UA Adds Attorney for NCAA fight

By Cecil Hurt  TUSCALOOSA - The University of Alabama has added an attorney from one of the state’s most noted l...

Feb 19, 2002

Prominent Attorney to Take on Bama Case

Robert Cunningham Jr. says he looks forward to arguing appeal of sanctions against Crimson Tide football program  By JOHN CAMERON  Ass...

Feb 19, 2002

Prominent Attorney Joins Tide’s Appeal

from the Montgomery Advertiser Digital Edition  MOBILE – A lawyer known for getting a record $3.5 billion in a case against Exxon Mobi...

Feb 18, 2002

Robert Cunningham, Jr. Joins Tide Legal Team for Appeal  TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- University of Alabama President Andrew Sorensen announced today that Robert Cunningham, Jr., of the Mobile...

Better Business Bureau Accredited Business

1-251-471 6191 TOLL FREE 1-800-472-6191

Cunningham Bounds LLC Circle Logo
Website developed and designed by Cubicle Fugitive